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A Hidden Population of Family Caregivers: Children

Guest blog post by Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, from Boca Raton. She is the Founder and President of the American Association of Caregiving Youth, which provides information and resources to youth, families and helping professionals, conducts research and promotes awareness of the issue of youth caregiving. The organization is a valued DCF partner.  

When Jason was 13 and in the middle of his 7th grade school year, his mother stopped cleaning the house.  She also stopped cooking. She would stay in bed all day. He didn’t want to bring friends to his house anymore because he worried about what he would find when he got home.

Jason tried his best to keep his mom happy and calm. He cleaned the house. He made her dinner.  Sometimes, he had to take it to her in the bedroom.  They ended up being evicted from their other apartment because of his mom’s changing behaviors.

Jason felt he couldn’t let anyone know about his mother. He knew she had some kind of “mental illness,” but he was afraid to ask for help.

These are the lives of youth caregivers and there are at least 1.3 million of them in the U.S.  They administer medications, assist with mobility and manage household chores. Some provide personal care such as bathing or helping a loved one to the bathroom. Others make sure the bills get paid on time. They have adult responsibilities and experience complicated emotions, but as children and teenagers they are not emotionally equipped to cope with the stress.

Caregiving Youth at Camp Treasure working together and building trust

Jason came to the Caregiving Youth Project, an affiliate of the American Association of Caregiving Youth, in Palm Beach County to participate in our activities and services.

Now he no longer feels like he must keep his mother’s condition a secret. He learned that by asking for help, he could get the support that both he and his mother need.

We sent a staff member to his house to meet him and his mother. Staff helped Jason’s mom contact an agency to help her with her illness. Jason was introduced to other kids his age who were caregivers and now he no longer feels so embarrassed and alone.

If you or someone you know is in need of help and is a caregiving youth, please contact the Caregiving Youth Project at info@aacy.org or call 1-800-725-2512.